New initiative offers Travel Companions to help visually-impaired rail travellers

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A new initiative by Transport for has helped to give people with visual impairments more confidence to travel by providing Travel Companions.

To help people with additional needs feel more confident when travelling, provides teams of Travel Companions at its key stations, including , , , and .

Cardiff Central, one of the Travel Companions locations. // Credit: Transport for Wales

Earlier this month, members of Guide Dogs Cymru met with the Travel Companion team at Swansea to understand how the roles work.

A new office has been created at the front of Swansea station where customers can speak to a member of the team for advice on booking tickets and reservations.

They can also find out information about disruption to services and obtaining assistance throughout their journey. The Travel Companions team is available from 8 am to 8 pm every day.

Disabled People to book assistance by two-thirds
Assisting a disabled traveller, // Credit: Rail Delivery Group

Although Transport for Wales has made significant investment in recent years to make all trains on the Wales and Borders routes fully accessible, only 13% of disabled rail users surveyed felt confident and at ease when travelling by train.

The visit was arranged as part of the Transport for Wales’ Confident Traveller scheme, which is designed to support those who are infrequent travellers by train or require additional support when travelling.

The Confident Traveller scheme is led by the community rail team, , and works with community support groups to help people gain the necessary experience, knowledge and confidence to travel by train.

As well as their training for the Confident Traveller scheme, each Travel Companion has had sighted guide training with Guide Dogs.

Swansea Station 2021
Swansea, one of the Travel Companions locations. // Credit:

Further information about the Confident Traveller scheme and Travel Companions can be obtained by emailing Transport for Wales.

If anyone requires for their journey, it can be booked up to two hours before their journey is due to start

Assistance can be booked online at https://tfw.wales/info-for/passengers/accessible-travel/booking-assistance

Swansea Travel Companion Suzanne Churchouse talking about her role.

Accessibility technology company Transreport recently secured investment to expand the use of its Passenger Assistance technology to more users.

The Office for Rail and Road has also released figures that show a remarkable increase in assistance to passengers requesting additional support while travelling by rail.

It’s been brilliant working with Guide Dog owners to understand what they need when they plan a journey, things like making sure there is enough space for their dog to sit by them and being on the right part of the train are key.

Suzanne Churchouse, Swansea Travel Companion

This fantastic initiative provides additional support to people with a visual impairment. Just knowing there is help available can make all the difference.

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport

Public transport is vital for people with sight loss to get out and about and live life as they choose. Getting a guide dog can open up a whole new world of independent travel but, when it comes to rail journeys, the owner may need extra assistance to access the station and locate their train. They may also need help or advice during the journey. We hope the Travel Companion scheme will help to make train travel a better experience for them.

Andrea Gordon, External Affairs manager for Guide Dogs Cymru

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